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Sport Already a Texas high school legend, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray can further build fame in homecoming

04:30  20 october  2020
04:30  20 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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- When Kyler Murray returned home to Texas after his rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals , he took two weeks off to The two started working together when Murray was a sophomore at Allen High School and Baca was just beginning In reality, Murray is as far from that label as anyone Baca has come across. To build his leg strength, Murray used a pit shark, a smaller, shorter machine used

“To enjoy it, you’ve got to win it.”

That’s what it boils down to for Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, he said, when he makes his much-anticipated Texas homecoming and meets the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on "Monday Night Football."

There has been a ton of hoopla and hype surrounding Murray and his return to the Lone Star State,  and rightfully so. As one of the most accomplished high school players in the state’s storied history, Murray is back after completely dominating the Texas prep scene, doing most of his damage less than 50 miles away from AT&T Stadium at Allen High School.

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At Allen, Murray helped christen the opening of an 18,000-seat stadium and led the Eagles to a 53-0 record and three consecutive state championships. All three of those title games were played at AT&T Stadium, where Murray is 7-0, including 6-0 as a starter.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Murray is “probably in the top 10 of any talented player that has played in that stadium.” In the 12-year history of “Jerry World,” only two other quarterbacks have more wins there than Murray — Tony Romo (25) and Dak Prescott (24) of the Cowboys.

“That’s impressive. We would love to support him in helping him get the mark up a little higher,” Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I was talking to him (Thursday) and I was asking him, ‘Has any player in the NFL ever won a game in the same building in high school, college and professionally,’ and we were rattling off names, but I couldn’t think of anybody and he couldn’t, either.

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“So how cool would that be, to go back home and do something like that?”

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Murray said coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former Texas prep quarterback sensation himself who also spent 11 years coaching college ball at Houston, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, is “probably more anxious than me.” That doesn’t mean it won’t be special for Murray, though.

“It means a lot,” he said of returning to AT&T Stadium. “There’s been a lot of memories, a lot of great memories. Obviously, playing back home in Texas in front of friends and family, but even it being on Monday night with COVID happening, everybody will be able to watch. It’s a big deal. Just to be able to play on Monday night. Not everybody gets that opportunity. It’s a huge honor and it’s a big opportunity for us to make the next step.

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a close up of a man: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) waits to stretch during practice on Sept. 24, 2020, at Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center in Tempe, Ariz. © Sean Logan/The Republic Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) waits to stretch during practice on Sept. 24, 2020, at Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center in Tempe, Ariz.

“Obviously, I have to stay composed, play my game, play our game, and execute at a high level in order to win.”

In the eyes of Louis Riddick, ESPN analyst and former NFL safety and front-office executive, Murray doesn’t only have to win this game, but he must dominate it. After carving up the Jets last week with a career-high 380 passing yards, Murray needs to destroy a Dallas defense that is allowing a league-high 36 points per game, Riddick suggests, or skeptics will be picking apart his game for the rest of the year.

“Even though everybody knows that Dallas’ defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed right now, he needs to torch this defense,” Riddick, who will be calling the game for ESPN alongside fellow analyst Brian Griese, told The Republic. “If he struggles against it, then people are going to go, ‘OK, what’s going on here.’ But if you want to be talked about like Russ (Wilson) and Aaron (Rodgers) and Ben (Roethlisberger) and any of the other good quarterbacks, you need to play great in a big moment.”

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During a separate phone interview with The Republic, Griese rejected that notion.

“I don’t agree with it. I don’t necessarily agree that a guy needs to light it up to prove anything,” Griese said. “I understand you’re going against a defense that’s been exposed. I get that. But look, I played the position. I don’t look at one game as a referendum on a quarterback. I look at a larger body of work.”

The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Murray knows he’s going to be under intense scrutiny on the national stage. The moment has never been too big for him, however, whether it was going undefeated at Allen High en route to winning National Player of the Year honors from Gatorade, Parade and USA TODAY, or smashing records in his one season as a starter at Oklahoma when he won the Heisman Trophy.

Kyler Murray wearing a suit and tie: Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Dec 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray poses for photos during a press conference at the New York Marriott Marquis after winning the Heisman Trophy. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports © Brad Penner, Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Dec 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray poses for photos during a press conference at the New York Marriott Marquis after winning the Heisman Trophy. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“This is what he’s worked hard for his entire life, to have moments like this, and I know he’s excited to go out there and try to put his best foot forward,” Kingsbury said.

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The son of a standout quarterback and now, high school coach, Murray became accustomed to the bright lights at an early age. He was drawing huge, curious crowds at his Pee Wee games in the Dallas area. By his freshman year at Allen, he was already being recruited by multiple college coaches, including Kingsbury.

“I was definitely aware of him,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said, adding, “I have a lot of respect for the young man.”

It wasn’t always glorious, though. As much as Murray lived the actual “Friday Night Lights” experience and became the subject of an almost cult-like following throughout the state of Texas, his lore took a twist when he enrolled at Texas A&M, lost the starting job to Kyle Allen, and then had to sit out a year after transferring to Oklahoma.

Since then, he’s been extremely guarded about who he lets into his life and inner circle.

“When you’re winning, everybody’s going to jump on the bandwagon,” Murray said. “It is what it is. You’ve just got to block that noise out. I went to A&M and obviously, didn’t have the most success. I guess you could kind of say everybody kind of ghosted, went in the closet and I had to put my career on pause for a second.

“Then I had one year at OU, did what I did, and now we’re back here. But everything happens for a reason.”

Whatever happens, Murray’s teammates are all in agreement that their rising star quarterback will be level-headed and treat this game almost like any other one before it. As right tackle Kelvin Beachum said, “He’s been in big situations before. He’s been in big games before. He’s won a lot of games in Texas before. So, I think he’s approaching this game as another opportunity to showcase his talents and showcase what this team can do.”

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Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim will be watching with almost pure giddiness.

“I can’t imagine what that must feel like,” Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7-FM on Friday, referring to Murray’s undefeated record at AT&T Stadium. “It’s just got to feel unbelievably special. He can downplay it, we can downplay it, but let’s not minimize how exciting it must be.”

Exciting, yes. But will Murray be able to enjoy the moment as it happens and unfolds?

“Due to COVID, the whole place isn’t going to be rockin’ like it should be. But yeah, I will be able to enjoy the moment,” Murray promised. “But at the same time, I know what’s at stake. We’re playing to win and that’s the end goal. This isn’t about me going home. This is about us playing the Cowboys, a good football team, and we’re on the road. Like I said, we’ve got to execute in order to win.

“I’ll be able to enjoy it, but at the same time, to enjoy it you’ve got to win.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Already a Texas high school legend, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray can further build fame in homecoming

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